A new voluntary coast watch service in Dublin Bay could become a model for the rest of Ireland.
While marine leisure facilities have been fast developing in Ireland backup services have not kept pace.
A new development in the coastal community of Dalkey in south Dublin is going some way to addressing the gap between the growth in marine leisure and the required backup services.
Dublin Bay Coastwatch operates from an old lookout at the coast guard station on Beacon Hill. It provides a voluntary backup service to both the lifeboat service and pleasure cruisers. There is no official government service in Ireland like this.
Dr John De Courcy Ireland of the Maritime Institute explains how the service came about. As the only country in Europe without a permanent coast watch, the Maritime Institute suggested the establishment of such a service. The Maritime Institute saw an increase in the number of calls for lifeboat services around the coast and suggested that the navy could be developed to provide a number of coastguard services. This idea fell on deaf ears and it was decided that a volunteer organisation was needed. The Maritime Institute set about finding individuals who would be prepared to volunteer to form a coast watch.
The main duty inside the coast watch cottage is to be on alert for vessels in trouble. The volunteers also provide weather and wind readings by scanning the bay area at regular intervals. While there are no facilities to carry out rescues, they can quickly get in contact with the Marine Rescue Centre at Shannon in the case of an emergency.
The coastwatch is manned by suitably qualified and committed volunteers.
The Dublin Bay coastwatch shift stretches from 10 am to 10 pm. However, the service is extended if there is bad weather or a lot of sea traffic. The coastwatch is kept busy passing information on to pleasure boats. The equipment used is a simple marine radio which they use to communicate with vessels and coast guards. There are documented procedures to follow in the case of an emergency, all the while acting as eyes and ears on the coastline.
We are watching for anybody in difficulty or distress and we're also listening on the radio in case anybody has any difficulties.
Operating for two months now as a voluntary coast watch it has established itself as a vital service. All calls to the service are logged meticulously alongside the hourly weather logs and the traffic reports in Dublin Bay.
We rely on the skill and commitment volunteers, men and women taking the responsibility to make our shores safe.
Dr John De Courcy Ireland is hopeful that this service in the Dublin Bay area will become a model for other places around the coast.
This episode of 'Ireland's Eye' was broadcast on 11 August 1982. The presenter is Marian Richardson.
'Ireland's Eye' was a Tuesday-to-Friday series with human-interest stories and features from locations throughout Ireland. First broadcast on 7 October 1980, the programme ran until August 1983.